Internship Spotlight: Elena Damaskos '17
What are you doing this summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.
Elena Damaskos '17
Internship: Digital Promise, Education Pioneers Fellowship; Washington, D.C.
Home country/state: Boston, Massachusetts
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Global Social Entrepreneurship, Ghana; The Competitor
For the past six weeks, I’ve been working at Digital Promise, an organization working to bring together the many people who have a stake in an excellent and equitable education system: educators working with students in classrooms, developers of learning technology, researchers making sure that one informs the other, and policy makers working to make sure that lessons learned inform policies (and impact more students) across their districts, cities, and states.
My project has been focused on identifying the places where these cross-sector collaborations are thriving—where partnerships among educators and ed tech are resulting in children being fully engaged in learning and entire communities feel ing a responsibility for the success of every child—and then using their best practices to create tools that will help other regions follow their lead.
It’s the kind of big-picture challenge that I really love: How do you create a system that brings together the many stakeholders in an issue (particularly those whose voices aren’t always heard), aligns their incentives, and results in a self-supporting ecosystem capable of actually driving change on that issue? Or simply, how do you get everyone to agree that there is a problem, that the solution is within their power to implement, and then make sure they do?
My day-to-day work has been creating a set of “tool kits” that answer the big questions that these regional “clusters” of education innovation have when setting out to work together: How do you identify and engage key stakeholders? Who are the right partners, and how do you structure those partnerships? How do you communicate value and impact and to whom? How do you support and grow your operations over the long term? The tool kits provide guidance around analyzing the landscape and mapping the market, comparing governance structures and public-private partnership models, recommending planning processes, and framing key messages and funding proposals.
The integrated curriculum and its perspectives could not have been a better lens through which to tackle this project. I’ve always interpreted it as a problem-solving framework driven by empathy: who are all the people who interact in a given environment, what do they care about and why, and how can we solve problems together? I’m increasingly reminded that solving complex problems takes a village, so being able to understand one another and effectively collaborate is a pre-requisite. And being able to spend my summer thinking about how to apply this framework on a large scale across entire communities and in service of an ambitious and immensely important goal of improving education has been the ideal capstone to my first year at Yale SOM.